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Read the latest DySoc Newsletter: December 2020

Past issues: Sep 2020, Jan 2020, Nov 2019, Sep 2019, Jan 2019, Oct 2018, Aug 2018, May 2018, Apr 2018, Mar 2018


DySoC Spring 2021 webinars on Human Origins and Cultural Evolution

DySoC is happy to announce a series of twelve open webinars on "Human Origins and Cultural Evolution, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Darwin's The Descent of Man". Read more »

Webinar schedule

DySoC/CES Fall 2020 webinars on Cultural Evolution

All videos of DySoC/CES webinars on Cultural Evolution from the Fall 2020 semester have been posted online.

  • Outreach for the Cultural Evolution Society: Everybody needs to know a little bit about cultural evolution with Peter J. Richerson
  • How to teach modeling, or Thoughts on a pedagogy for cultural evolution, with Paul E. Smaldino
  • The discovery and reach of animal cultures, with Andrew Whiten
  • Cognitive biases in folklore: From fairy tales to fake news, with Joseph Stubbersfield
  • Cultural evolution in the field, with Adrian Viliami Bell
  • Modeling the dynamics of cultural diversification, with Bernard Koch and Erik Gjesfjeld
  • Cultural macroevolution: Understanding the rise of large-scale complex societies in human history, with Peter Turchin
  • The behavioural ecology of religious beliefs and practices, with Ruth Mace
  • The Impact of a tradition on the life of capuchin monkeys, with Patricia Izar

We hope to be able to continue this highly successful webinar series in the spring of 2021.

Five teaching modules on cultural evolution (described below) are freely available online. The sixth module should be available before the end of this year.

New Online Tutorials: Dynamical Systems in Cultural Evolution

The Center for the Dynamics of Society Complexity (DySoC) and the Cultural Evolution Society (CES) announce a new online learning series presenting basic and applied lessons in the dynamics of cultural evolution.

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To understand how culture evolves, scientists often turn to mathematical models to shed light on how culture and life history have interacted in shaping who we are and what we might become.

The CES online learning series, which includes six modules, has been developed with self-guided study in mind. Through a variety of online learning methods, students will be able to independently work through the material to gain both a theoretical understanding of the method and practical experience using it.

The concepts and techniques covered in these modules are intended to facilitate interdisciplinary conversations and collaborations. The modules could serve as a basis for intensive short courses, seminars, or as components of a regular quarter or semester course.

The modules were created by scholars from around the world through a competitive process as a part of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation with principal investigators DySoC Director Sergey Gavrilets and past CES President Peter J. Richerson. Technical assistance was provided by the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis.

Five of the six modules have been released (four on June 16th and one on July 21st) and are now available at http://www.dysoc.org/cesmodules.

They are as follows:

Models of Social Dynamics: An Introductory Module (created by Paul E. Smaldino, Cognitive and Information Sciences, University of California, Merced). This module takes an interdisciplinary approach to modeling social behavior, drawing on insights from across the social sciences and evolutionary ecology. It focuses on constructing and analyzing simulations using the NetLogo programming language.

Animal Cultures: Core Discoveries and New Horizons (created by Andy Whiten, University of St Andrews, UK; Lucy Aplin, Max Planck Institute for Animal Behaviour, Germany; Nicolas Claidière, CNRS, Aix-Marseille University, France; Rachel Kendal, University of Durham, UK). This module offers an overview of core discoveries and new developments in the study of animal cultures. The significance of animal culture for evolutionary biology and ecology, understanding human cultural evolution, and conservation are highlighted.

The Neverending Story: Cultural Evolution and Narratives (created by Joseph Stubbersfield, Psychology Department, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK; Jamie Tehrani, Anthropology Department, Durham University, Durham, UK; Oleg Sobchuk, Max Planck Institute the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany). This module explores the universal and uniquely human behavior of narrative and how cultural evolution theory has provided vital insights into the transmission and evolution of narratives and why some become culturally successful.

Foundations of Cultural Evolution: A Question + Tools Approach (created by Adrian Bell, Department of Anthropology, University of Utah). An introductory guide to the body of formal theory in the study of the cultural evolution in humans and other animals, this module guides participants through the basic machinery of dynamic models and key results from a variety of cultural evolution topics.

Modeling the Dynamics of Cultural Diversification (created by Bernard Koch, UCLA; Erik Gjesfjeld, Cambridge University; Michael Alfaro, UCLA; Jacob Foster, UCLA; and Daniele Silvestro, University of Gothenburg, Sweden). This module helps you explore the concepts and methods used to examine the emergence, persistence, and extinction of population-scale cultural diversity through time.

The remaining modules will be released this summer. They include Dynamic Models of Human Systems and Cultural Evolution of Dynamic Learning.


Due to the evolving coronavirus situation, DySoC/NIMBioS activities through December 31, 2020, are expected to be virtual, with limited exceptions. In-person seminars have been replaced by webinars. Past seminars were streamed live and archived for later viewing.
Did you miss a seminar or webinar? Click on the video icons on our seminar page to view recordings of past talks. Video icon.



Mathematics of Gun Violence. May 1-3, 2019. Organizers: Andrea Bertozzi, Louis Gross, Andrew Papachristos, Martin Short, Shelby Scott.  

Social norms: emergence, persistence, and effects. April 23-25, 2019. Organizers: Michele Gelfand, Nathan Nunn, and S. Gavrilets. Human Origins 2021. Feb 15-16 2019. Organizers: S. Gavrilets, F. de Waal, P. J. Richerson.

Extending the Theory of Sustainability. December 5-7, 2018. The workshop was a great success. Some of the participants have returned to work on manuscripts of several papers.

See DySoC Workshops for a workshop calendar.

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New Courses

Spring 2021: Sustainable Cities and Urban Ecology (Geology 493/593). Instructors: M. L. McKinney and Michael Ross

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Upcoming Conference

Play and the Evolution of Creative Societies, July 04-08, 2021. Erice, Sicily, Italy. Co-organized by Gordon M. Burghardt

DySoC Journal Club

Thanks to DySoC postdocs Simon Carrignon, Damian Ruck, and Denis Tverskoi, we have a journal club! Information and summary of topics discussed.

Recent Talks

Sergey Gavrilets "New approaches to modeling the dynamics of collective action in cooperation and conflict" Basic Research Forum, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, DOD. Sergey Gavrilets "Modeling the evolutionary origins and dynamics of social complexity" Center for Mathematical Biology, University of Bath, UK

Recent Symposium

Apocalypse, Populism, Critique: An interdisciplinary Symposium (Organizers: Harry F. Dahms and Allen Dunn). Videos of talks are available here.

Recent Editorial Posts

Brandon Prins. (2020) Capacity Building must be a Focus as Sea-piracy Expands. Maritime Executive, September 19, 2020.

Brandon Prins. (2020). Terrorists Target Civilians to Provoke Government Over-Reaction. Homeland Security Today, July 17, 2020.

Brandon Prins. (2020) Piracy is on the Rise and Coronavirus May Make it Worse. World Economic Forum, May 15, 2020.

Brandon Prins. (2020) Global Sea Piracy Ticks Upward and the Coronavirus May Make it Worse. TheConversation, May 5, 2020.

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Awards and Recognition:

Alex Bentley and Garriy Shteynberg received the UT College of Arts & Sciences Award for Development of Interdisciplinary Collaborative Scholarship and Research. The title of their project is "Shared Worlds and Shared Minds: A Psychological Theory of Collective Learning and Common Knowledge."

David G. Anderson's research was featured in two articles in the December 2019 issue of American Archaeology: The threat of climate change by Tamara Jager Stewart and Investigating the vacant quarter by David Malakoff

An earlier paper from Damian Ruck and Alex Bentley ("The cultural foundations of modern democracies" in Nature Human Behavior) got some interesting coverage, e.g.

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Recent Papers:

Beckage B, Lacasse K, Winter JM, Gross LJ, Fefferman N, Hoffman FM, Metcalf SS, Franck T, Carr E, Zia A, Kinzig A. 2020. The Earth has humans, so why don't our climate models? Climatic Change. [Link]

Carrignon S, Brughmans T, Romanowska I. 2020. Tableware trade in the Roman East: Exploring cultural and economic transmission with agent-based modelling and approximate Bayesian computation. PLoS ONE 15(11):e0240414. [Link]

Carrignon S, Coto-Sarmiento M, Bentley RA, O'Brien MJ. 2020. An introduction to papers from workshops on the evolution of cultural complexity. Adaptive Behavior 28(5):317-322. doi:10.1177/1059712320950483.

Chen C, de Rubens GZ, Xu X, Li J. 2020. Coronavirus comes home? Energy use, home energy management, and the social-psychological factors of COVID-19. Energy Research & Social Science 68:101688. [Link]

Chen C, Hong T, de Rubens GZ, Yilmaz S, Bandurski K, Bélafi ZD et al. 2020. Culture, conformity, and carbon? A multi-country analysis of heating and cooling practices in office buildings. Energy Research & Social Science 61:101344. [Link]

Collins-Elliott SA, Jazwa CS. 2020. Dynamic Modeling of the Effects of Site Placement on Environmental Suitability: A Theoretical Example from Northwest Morocco. Environmental Archaeology. doi: 10.1080/14614103.2020.1763020.

Coppinger BA, Kania S, Lucas JR, Sieving KE, Freeberg TM. (In Press) Experimental manipulation of mixed-species flocks reveals heterospecific audience effects on calling. To appear inAnimal Behaviour.

Currie TE, Turchin P, Turner E, Gavrilets S. 2020. Duration of agriculture and distance from the steppe predict the evolution of large-scale human societies in Afro-Eurasia. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications 7, 34. [Link]

Dahms, H. 2020. Critical Theory, Sociology, and Science-Fiction Films: Love, Radical Transformation and the Socio-Logic of Capital IN Daniel Krier and Mark Worrell (eds.), Capital in the Mirror: Critical Theory and the Aesthetic Dimension (Albany, NY: SUNY Press): 231-301.

Dahms H. 2020. Karl Kautsky IN Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, 2nd ed. (online), ed. by George Ritzer (Malden, Mass.) [Link]

Dahms H. 2020. Science Fiction Films and 'Love': Toward a Critique of Regressive Social Relations. Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 103 (2):121-157 [Link]

Dahms HF. 2020. Adorno's Critique of the New Right-Wing Extremism: How (Not) to Face the Past, Present, and Future. disClosure: a journal of social theory, 29(1), 129-179 [Link]

Derryberry EP, Phillips JN, Derryberry GE, Blum MJ, Luther, DA. 2020. Singing in a silent spring: birds respond to a half-century soundscape reversion during the COVID-19 shutdown. Science 370(6516):575-579. DOI: 10.1126/science.abd5777.

Fell MJ, Pagel L, Chen C, Goldberg MH, Herberz M, Huebner GM et al. 2020. Validity of energy social research during and after COVID-19: challenges, considerations, and responses. Energy Research & Social Science 101646.

Gavrilets S. 2020. The dynamics of injunctive social norms. Evolutionary Human Sciences

Gavrilets S, Duwal Shrestha M. 2020. Evolving institutions for collective action by selective imitation and self-interested design. Evolution and Human Behavior. [Link]

Ghersi BM, Peterson AC, Gibson NL, Dash A, Elmayan A, Schwartzenburg H, Tu W, Riegel C, Herrera C, Blum MJ. 2020. IN The heart of the city: Trypanosoma cruzi infection prevalence in rodents across New Orleans. Parasites & vectors 13(1):1-0.

Gladstone N, Bordeau T, Leppanen C, McKinney ML. 2020. Spatiotemporal patterns of non-native gastropods in the contiguous United States. Neobiota 57:133-152.

Guo, Q, Cen X, Song R, McKinney ML, Wang D. 2020. Worldwide effects of non-native species on species-area relationships. Conservation Biology. In press.

Howell CE, Anderson RC, Derryberry EP. 2020. Female zebra finches prefer the songs of males who quickly solve a novel foraging task to the songs of males unable to solve the task. Ecology & Evolution 10(8):10281-10291. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.6690.

Jung H, Sherrod A, LeBreux S, Price J, Freeberg TM. 2020. Traffic noise and responses to a simulated approaching avian predator in mixed-species flocks of chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches. Ethology 126(6):620-629.

Krams IA, Krama T, Freeberg TM, Krams R, Sieving KE. (In Press) Attacks of songbirds in mixed-species flocks by Eurasian sparrowhawks: strategies of predators and potential prey. To appear in Journal of Field Ornithology.

Li D, Olden JD, Lockwood, JL, Record S, McKinney ML, Baiser B. 2020. Changes in taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity in the Anthropocene. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 2020 Jun 24;287(1929):20200777.

Lozano P, Gavrilets S, Sanchez A. 2020. Cooperation, social norm internalization and the arising of hierarchically structured societies. Scientific Reports 10:15359. [Link]

McKinney ML, VerBerkmoes A. 2020. Beneficial health outcomes of natural green infrastructure in cities. Current Landscape Ecology Reports 5:35-44.

Perry L, Gavrilets S. 2020. Foresight in a game of leadership. Scientific Reports 10:2251. [Link]

Peterson AC, Ghersi BM, Riegel C, Wunder Jr EA, Childs JE, Blum MJ. 2020. Amplification of pathogenic Leptospira infection with greater abundance and co‐occurrence of rodent hosts across a counter‐urbanizing landscape. Molecular Ecology. [Link]

Rooker K, Gavrilets S. 2020. On the evolution of sexual receptivity in female primates. Scientific Reports 10:11945. [Link]

Ross CT et al. 2020. The multinomial index: a robust measure of reproductive skew in animal societies. Proc Royal Soc London B 287:20202025. [Link]

Rusch H, Gavrilets S. 2020. The logic of animal intergroup conflict: A review. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. [Link]

Sovacool BK, Xu X, de Rubens GZ, Chen CF. 2020. Validity of energy social research during and after COVID-19: challenges, considerations, and responses Environmental Sociology, 1-16.

Van de Moortel A. Middle Helladic Architectural Practices and the Formation of Elite Architecture at Mitrou, East Lokris, Early in the Late Helladic Period, IN: A Mazarakis Ainian (ed.), Proceedings of the 5th Archaeological Meeting of Thessaly and Central Greece 2012-2014. From Prehistory to the Contemporary Period, Volos, Feb. 26 - March 1, 2015 (Volos) 877-890.

Van de Moortel A. Sea Peoples from the Aegean: Identity, Socio-Political Context, and Antecedents, IN A Gilboa and A Yasur-Landau (eds.), Nomads of the Mediterranean: Trade and Contact in the Bronze and Iron Ages (Leiden: Brill) 318-335.

Rusch H, Gavrilets S. 2020. The logic of animal intergroup conflict: A review. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. [Link]

Dahms H. 2019. Critical Theory Derailed: Paradigm Fetishism and Critical Liberalism in Honneth (and Habermas) IN Volker Schmitz (ed.), Axel Honneth and the Future of Critical Theory (Palgrave), pp. 207-242.

Dahms H. 2019. Ignoring Goethe's Faust: A Critical-Theoretical Perspective on American Ideology. Fast Capitalism: An Interdisciplinary Journal 16(2):9-30 [Link]

Edited Volumes

Social Theory and Science Fiction (Special Issue). 2020 . Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 103 (2) (Dahms, Harry, guest editor). [Link]

The Challenge of Progress: Theory between Critique and Ideology. 2019. Current Perspectives in Social Theory 36. Bingley, UK: Emerald (Dahms, Harry, guest editor). [Link]

The Digital Transformation of Social Theory (Special Issue). 2019. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 149. Roth S, Dahms HF, Welz F, Cattacin S (co-editors) [Link]

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New Grant

Maritime law enforcement in the Indo-Pacific: building capacity to confront militia groups and maritime crime. PI: Brandon Prins (Minerva Research Initiative. Department of Defense).

The research project tackles important shortcomings in extant research on the maritime security challenges in the Indo-Pacific. The project makes several broad contributions. By building two novel datasets on littoral capabilities and non-traditional security threats, it opens the door to systematic empirical research on the emerging challenges in the region. The project helps conceptualize the nature of the non-traditional security challenges and informs policymakers in choosing effective strategies to confront them. It also measures the nature and extent of formal and informal maritime law enforcement cooperation, which can help establish the overall effectiveness of coordinated force projection in the region. At the local level, the data offer policymakers and practitioners unprecedented spatial specificity for describing patterns of maritime crime and conflict. It aids practitioners in identifying the hotspots of illicit activity and determining the right maritime law enforcement response. An expected outcome of the project is a visualization tool that will enable users to chart the spatial and temporal movement of criminal and terrorist elements as well as the force posture and location of maritime law enforcement capacity at the sub-national level. Finally, this project contributes to the DoD’s effort in building state capacity to respond against the actions of criminal non-state groups in the region, while also assessing various approaches to enhancing regional cooperation to confront this challenge.

Recent grants

  • George Siopsis received an NSF grant to explore the possibility of starting a new Institute at UTK in quantum information science. One intriguing application of this young science for DySoC members is analysis of human behavior using quantum game theory.
  • Brandon Prins:
    • Oak Ridge National Laboratory University Engagement for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Safeguards Courses at the University of Tennessee, Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy. $28,000 from DOE - ORNL - UT-Battelle - Oak Ridge National Laboratory for Baker Center.
    • Peacebuilding in conflict & post-conflict societies. $8,528 from International Studies Association to Baker Center.
  • November 2018 – Sergey Gavrilets received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation entitled Dynamic Models for Basic Theory and Applications in Cultural Evolution ($234K). The grant's goal is to organize and develop web-based educational materials on dynamic modeling for graduate students and post-docs from across the social sciences, as well as a textbook/review aimed at applying methods of the dynamical systems theory to the evolution of institutions, a topic bringing together many basic and applied issues in cultural evolution. These activities will lay the groundwork for a social scientific paradigm shift, and can provide policy tools by which we might humanely direct our own evolution.
  • March 2018 – Sergey Gavrilets was awarded a 3-year Minerva grant (DOD) to study Integrating structural theories of revolution with evolutionary models to predict societal resilience and (in)stability.
  • January 2018 – Garriy Shteynberg was awarded a 3-year NSF grant to study Social bases of attitudinal extremetization: Shared attention versus attitudinal simulation.

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Press releases

Contact DySoC
Sergey Gavrilets, Director
403B Austin Peay
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-3410
PH: (865) 974-8136
FAX: (865) 974-3067 Email
Website: http://www.dysoc.org

DySoC is affiliated with The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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